Posted by: Jina Bacarr | December 22, 2011

Titanic Rhapsody Christmas 1911

© Mikle15 | Dreamstime.com and © Ateliersommerland | Dreamstime.com

With the holiday upon us, I’ve been wondering what Christmas 1911 was like for the Irish emigrants and passengers who would later board the Titanic in April 1912.

I remember a story I read in an Irish newspaper about a letter to Santa written in 1911 by children who hid their wish list in a chimney.

When it was discovered many years later, it was barely touched by time. As if nothing could douse the hopes and dreams of children adrift on their magical adventure of writing to the man in the North Pole.

Most likely the passengers who booked passage on the Titanic were just as excited about the ship’s upcoming maiden voyage.

It was an unusually cold winter in 1911. What was it like on that Christmas Day?

Did Irish widow Margaret Rice knit extra mittens for her five boys?

I wonder if Father Browne–then a theology student–received his new camera on that Christmas morning?

Imagine the joy in the heart of young Swede Dagmar Bryhl when her handsome fiancé presented her with a lovely watch.

Or the Irish holiday feast of turkey and ham and mince pie enjoyed by Nora Keane when she returned to Limerick to visit her mother.

When they raised their voices in O Holy Night on that Christmas Eve, they had no idea what part they would play on the ship of dreams when they set sail on the Titanic.

Father Browne sailed on the Titanic for two days and got off the ship at Queenstown on April 11, 1912.  A wealthy first class couple offered to pay his passage to New York, but his uncle, the Bishop of Cloyne, ordered him off the ship. The future Jesuit priest took the last pictures of the Titanic and her passengers.

Margaret Rice was a steerage passenger. She and her five sons never made it to a lifeboat and perished in the tragedy. A surviving photo of her and her boys was taken before she left and has only recently resurfaced.

Dagmar Bryhl was traveling to visit an uncle in America in second class. She survived, but her brother and fiancé both perished. She was wearing the watch her beloved gave her on a chain around her neck when she boarded the ship.

Nora Keane decided to stay longer in Ireland than planned, but she had trepidations about traveling on Titanic’s maiden voyage. Her brother convinced her to book passage as a second class passenger. She survived the sinking, thanks to a ship’s officer who banged on their door and ordered her and Edwinna Troutt up on top. Nora was shocked when four hundred people showed up at the train station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to welcome her home.

These are a few Titanic stories from that Christmas of 1911.

As Katie O’Reilly, my heroine in TITANIC RHAPSODY, would say, “May the hand of an angel be upon your shoulder to guide you in your dreams.”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

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